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  • January 14, 2022

    By Allison Larson, MD

    Whether you’re a winter sports enthusiast or spend the season curled up by the fireplace, the low humidity, bitter winds, and dry indoor heat that accompany cold weather can deplete your skin’s natural moisture. Dry skin is not only painful, uncomfortable, and irritating; it also can lead to skin conditions such as eczema, which results in itchy, red, bumpy skin patches. 

    Follow these six tips to prevent and treat skin damage caused by winter dryness.

    1. Do: Wear sunscreen all year long.

    UV rays can easily penetrate cloudy skies to dry out exposed skin. And when the sun is shining, snow and ice reflect its rays, increasing UV exposure. 

    Getting a sunburn can cause severe dryness, premature aging of the skin, and skin cancer. Snow or shine, apply sunscreen before participating in any outdoor activity during the winter—especially if you take a tropical vacation to escape the cold; your skin is less accustomed to sunlight and more likely to burn quickly.

    The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) recommends sunscreen that offers protection against both UVA and UVB rays, and offers a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30.

    That being said, if you are considering laser skin treatments to reduce wrinkles, hair, blemishes, or acne scars, winter is a better time to receive these procedures. Sun exposure shortly after a treatment increases the risk of hyperpigmentation (darkening of the skin), and people are less likely to spend time outside during the winter.

    Related reading: 7 Simple Ways to Protect Your Skin in the Sun

    2. Do: Skip products with drying ingredients.

    Soaps or facial products you use in warm weather with no issues may irritate your skin during colder seasons. This is because they contain ingredients that can cause dryness, but the effects aren’t noticeable until they’re worsened by the dry winter climate.

    You may need to take a break from:

    • Anti-acne medications containing benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid
    • Antibacterial and detergent-based soap
    • Anything containing fragrance, from soap to hand sanitizer

    Hand washing and the use of hand sanitizer, which contains a high level of skin-drying alcohol, cannot be avoided; we need to maintain good hand hygiene to stop the spread of germs. If your job or lifestyle requires frequent hand washing or sanitizing, routinely apply hand cream throughout the day as well.

    During the COVID-19 pandemic, I have seen a lot of people develop hand dermatitis—a condition with itchy, burning skin that can swell and blister—due to constant hand washing. Sometimes the fix is as simple as changing the soap they're using. Sensitive-skin soap is the best product for dry skin; it typically foams up less but still cleans the skin efficiently.

    3. Do: Pay closer attention to thick skin.

    Areas of thin skin, such as the face and backs of your hands, are usually exposed to the wind and sun the most. It’s easy to tell when they start drying out. But the thick skin on your palms and bottoms of your feet is also prone to dryness—and tends to receive less attention.

    When thick skin gets dry, fissures form. You’ll see the surface turn white and scaly; then deep, linear cracks will appear. It isn’t as pliable as thin skin. When you’re constantly on your feet or using your hands to work, cook, and everything in between, dry thick skin cracks instead of flexing with your movements. 

    To soften cracked skin, gently massage a heavy-duty moisturizer—such as Vaseline—into the affected area once or twice a day. You can also talk with your doctor about using a skin-safe adhesive to close the fissures and help them heal faster.

    Related reading:  Follow these 5 Tips for Healthy Skin

    4. Don’t believe the myth that drinking more water will fix dry skin.

    Contrary to popular belief, the amount of water or fluids you drink does not play a major role in skin hydration—unless you’re severely dehydrated. In the winter, especially, dry skin is caused by external elements; it should be treated from the outside as well. 

    The best way to keep skin hydrated and healthy is to apply fragrance-free cream or ointment—not lotion—to damp skin after a shower or bath.
    Some people need additional moisturizers for their hands, legs, or other areas prone to dryness.

    While some lotions are made better than others, most are a combination of water and powder that evaporates quickly. Creams and ointments work better because they contain ingredients that can help rebuild your skin barrier. 

    Look for products with ceramide, a fatty acid that helps rebuild the fat and protein barrier that holds your skin cells together. The AAD also recommends moisturizing ingredients such as:

    • Dimethicone
    • Glycerin
    • Jojoba oil
    • Lanolin
    • Mineral oil
    • Petrolatum
    • Shea butter

    For severely dry skin, you can try a “wet wrap” technique:

    1. Rinse a pair of tight-fitting pajamas in warm water and wring them out so they’re damp, not wet.
    2. Apply cream or ointment to your skin.
    3. Put on the damp pajamas, followed by a pair of dry pajamas, and wear the ensemble for several hours.

    Dampness makes your skin more permeable and better able to absorb hydrating products. If the wet wrap or over-the-counter products aren’t working for you, talk with a dermatologist about prescription skin hydration options. 

    Drinking more water isn’t the answer to dry winter skin. The best solution is to apply fragrance-free cream or ointment directly to damp skin. Get more cold weather #SkinCareTips from a dermatologist in this blog:
    Click to Tweet


    5. Don’t confuse skin conditions with dryness.

    Skin conditions are often mistaken for dry skin because peeling or flaking are common symptoms. Redness of the skin or itching in addition to dryness and flaking indicates a skin condition that may need more than an over-the-counter moisturizer.

    Skin cells are anchored together by a lipid and protein layer (like a brick and mortar wall). With very dry skin, the seal on this wall or barrier is not fully intact and water evaporates out of the skin’s surface. The skin will become itchy and red in addition to scaly or flaky. If you experience these symptoms, visit with a dermatologist.

    6. Don’t wait for symptoms to take care of dry skin.

    Be proactive—the best way to maintain moisture is to apply hydrating creams and ointments directly to your skin on a regular basis. Start by applying them as part of your morning routine. Once you get used to that, add a nighttime application. And carry a container of it when you’re on the go or keep it in an easily accessible location at work.


    You can’t avoid dry air, but you can take precautions to reduce its harsh effects on your skin. If over-the-counter products don’t seem to help, our dermatologists can provide an individualized treatment plan. Hydrated skin is healthy skin!

    Does your skin get drier as the air gets colder?

    Our dermatologists can help.

    Call 202-877-DOCS (3627) or Request an Appointment

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  • October 04, 2018

    By MedStar Health

    Sometimes it can feel that you are asked to do conflict of interest disclosures everywhere you turn. Whether it’s research related, required by your entity, or part of a relationship with an outside company, everyone asks for different information in different formats and for different timeframes. We know it can be frustrating! Recent news has reminded us how important it is to accurately disclose all financial relationships and interests in all of the places you are required to do so.

    It is imperative that you keep your MedStar conflict of interest disclosures up to date. Additionally, it is your responsibility to ensure that you have accurately and consistently disclosed financial interests when you publish or present research.

    Do you have a question about your conflict of interest obligations at MedStar? We can help! Questions about the conflict of interest process, disclosures, and requirements for research can be addressed by the Research Compliance Program at Questions about the MedStar conflict of interest process outside of the research context can be addressed by your entity compliance officer.

  • October 04, 2018

    By MedStar Health

    MedStar Health strives to provide associates with the tools and learning opportunities to succeed in the ever-changing healthcare industry. To accomplish this, associates are encouraged to take advantage of MedStar’s Educational Assistance program and unique partnerships with local universities and colleges, including Georgetown University. 

    The Georgetown University’s Executive Masters and Certificate programs address the growing need for sustainable improvements in patient safety and quality education. Through these valuable opportunities, students learn from national experts who have shaped the patient safety and quality landscape, and collaborate with other learners within the healthcare industry.

    Executive Masters Program in Clinical Quality, Safety and Leadership

    • Immerse yourself in advanced theory and concepts of healthcare quality, patient safety science, and organizational leadership
    • 16-month online program, with a four-day onsite networking opportunity held at Georgetown University in D.C.
    • Full-time or part-time enrollment available

    Executive Certificate in Patient Safety and Quality

    • Practice fundamental concepts of systems-thinking, improvement science, and data collection, organization, and analyses
    • Six-month online certificate

    Executive Certificate in Healthcare Safety and Leadership

    • Gain insight on how to become a leader in an ever-changing healthcare system
    • Six-month online certificate 

    Learn more about the programs and apply online

    Note: Participation in Georgetown University’s Executive Masters and Certificate programs may be eligible for Educational Assistance. Refer to your entity’s policy for more information.

  • October 04, 2018

    By MedStar Health

    Thank you to all the MHRI and MedStar associates who attended and participated in the 2018 Race to Beat Cancer 5K. This charitable event is one of the premier 5K races in Washington, D.C., and was held on Saturday, September 15, 2018.

    Cancer is the second leading cause of death in the United States. Washington Cancer Institute at MedStar Washington Hospital Center is a regional leader and national model for patient-focused cancer diagnosis and treatment that provides the highest quality, and latest medical advances in cancer diagnosis and treatment. Thanks to the many sponsors and supporters, the event raised more money for cancer research than ever before. The goal for this year was $400,000 and they are just shy of the goal. Many thanks to the host, Four Seasons Hotel, Washington D.C., for its continued commitment and partnership to the patients and staff at Washington Cancer Institute over the past 18 years.

    Opportunities to contribute to advances in research are still happening in the area. Learn more about events in DC and Baltimore here.

  • October 04, 2018

    By MedStar Health

    As part of the annual Associate Giving campaign, Giving: The Power to Heal, donations made to support research at MedStar Health are used to fund the New Investigator – Associate Giving Grant Fund. This grant is awarded to researchers who are new to MedStar Health in order to help support new, high potential research endeavors and can lead to external funding.

    Since launching the New Investigator – Associate Giving Grant Fund in 2015 with the donations to the Power to Heal campaign by MedStar associates, the Research Institute has provided funding to fifteen investigators at MedStar. Here is an update on the research of prior recipients.

    Success in Future Funding 

    The New Investigator Fund focuses on funding research so that investigators can seek additional outside funding to continue their research. Alexander Kroemer, MD, PhD, was a recipient of a grant from the 2015 Power to Heal campaign. His research, “The Role of Nuclear Oligomerization Binding Domain-2 in Driving Th17-Mediated Allograft Rejection in Intestinal Transplant Recipients,” built on previous preliminary work to test the hypothesis that Th17-mediated immune responses play a major role in the potential for intestinal transplant rejection. As a result of the pilot data collected during his research, he was awarded an R01 grant from the National Institutes of Health- National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIH-NIAID). This is the first-ever NIH R01 grant for our MedStar Georgetown Transplant Institute. This project has the potential to help those who could benefit from a life-altering intestinal transplant (ITx), but are unable to do so because of the high risk of immunological complications.

    Investigating How Payments Can Affect Care

    Jessica E. GalarragaJessica Galarraga, MD, MPH, is investigating the effects of Maryland’s global budgeting payment reform on emergency care quality. “An Evaluation of a Payment Reform Experiment: The Impact of Global Budgets on Emergency Department Return Visits” was funded by the 2016 Power to Heal campaign.

    Payment reform has increasingly been at the forefront of the dialogue on health care reform. In an effort to control rising health care costs, the state of Maryland has recently embarked on a large scale payment reform experiment known as the global budget revenue (GBR) program. This study uses data from the Health Services Cost Review Commission’s basic inpatient file, which has comprehensive hospital-based statewide data for Maryland.

    The data from this project demonstrated a small, but statistically significant increase in quarterly emergency department return rates with GBR implementation by 0.2%, which suggests that the previously demonstrated GBR-associated decline in emergency department hospitalization rates may be posing a risk for increasing returns to the emergency department after discharge.

    These findings have led to a two-year Early Career Research Development Grant by the Emergency Medicine Foundation awarded in June 2018. This funding will support a more in-depth analysis of emergency department returns using Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project data that does not have limitations such as time and tracking measures.

    Finding Markers to Better Treat Cancer

    chukwuemeka-u-ihemelanduChukwuemeka Ihemelandu, MD, was a recipient of a grant from the 2016 Power to Heal campaign. His research, “Establishment of Patient-Derived Tumor Xenograft Models of Peritoneal Metastasis for Preclinical Evaluation of New Imaging Targets: A Translational Platform for Improving Detection of Microscopic Disease to Impact Survival of Patients with Gastrointestinal Cancers,” was to establish a proof of concept for the use of intra-operative optical fluorescence imaging with NIR light using antibodies that specifically target cancer cells in gastrointestinal malignancies.

    Results from the research indicated a difference in the expression patterns of the identified target biomarkers between the right- and left-sided colon cancer. Key data points were achieved to better summarize the molecular heterogeneity of human tumor for optical imaging and ensure translatability of pre-clinical labs. Dr. Ihemelandu was awarded a NIH KL2 grant as a result of these findings which will assist in the development of a successful clinical and translational research career.

    Connecting Clinicians for Better Patient Outcomes

    Shimae C. FitzgibbonsShimae Fitzgibbons, MD, continued her research in better understanding the familiarity in surgical teams on patient outcomes as a recipient of the 2016 Power to Heal campaign.

    The goal of “Impact of Familiarity of Surgical Teams on Patient Outcomes” was to utilize a pre-existing database of surgical reports to better understand the factors and relationships that may contribute to the best patient outcomes. With an increasing focus on operating room utilization in healthcare, it is important to assess potential relationships between surgical team member familiarity and patient outcome. Three approaches to familiarity were used: in-role familiarity (familiarity amongst team members within a given role), cross-role familiarity (familiarity between roles), and overall familiarity (combination of both sets of scores). The core surgical team members participating in the procedure were classified into the following categories: surgeon, anesthesiology team member, scrub technician, and circulator.

    More than 4500 knee arthroplasty cases were ultimately included in the dataset. When controlling for patient age, gender, hospital and ASA class, a team’s familiarity score during a case was significantly associated with reduced surgery time and patient length of stay in knee arthroplasty cases. The research identified that with respect to the impact of specific dyad familiarity, all team familiarity is associated with a shorter case length and a shorter length of hospital stay.

    The results of this study have been presented at several national meetings. For future research, Dr. Fitzgibbons has proposed two directions that have the potential to generate external funding.

    Our Power to Heal

    MedStar Health has launched the 2018 Giving: The Power to Heal Campaign. This campaign, which runs through Friday, Oct. 20, invites associates and physicians to invest through philanthropy and support research across the system.

    “Associates throughout the MedStar family can have a powerful impact and have the Power to Heal through their support of research among our new investigators,” says Neil Weissman, MD, president of MedStar Health Research Institute. “We remain committed to our investigators and this is a chance to invest in the future of research across the wider MedStar Health community.”

    We invite you to discover your Power to Heal and choose to make a difference today! Visit to learn more. To support the New Investigator fund, select Research at MedStar in the drop-down menu when you make your donation.

  • October 02, 2018

    By MedStar Health

    According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, last year’s flu season was considered severe, based on the number of people seeking medical attention for this highly contagious respiratory illness. It also lasted for an extended period, which highlights the importance of being proactive to help prevent the flu.

    “Flu activity often begins in October in the U.S., peaks December through February, and sometimes lasts as late as May. So now is the best time to take some preventive steps to protect yourself from getting sick this upcoming flu season,” says Malek Cheikh, MD, medical director of the Good Health Center at MedStar Good Samaritan Hospital.

    “The single best thing you should do each season is get a flu shot. Seasonal flu shots are created to protect against the three or four flu viruses that are expected to be the most common during a flu season. Last year’s vaccination won’t protect you,” Dr. Cheikh explains. “Flu vaccines trigger the development of antibodies that guard against the strains of flu contained in the vaccine.”

    Although complete immunity can’t be guaranteed, there are some other ways to reduce your risk of infection from the flu. “Flu is extremely contagious, able to spread from one person to another within six feet via droplets produced when coughing, sneezing, talking, or by touching contaminated surfaces,” he notes. “That’s why practicing good health and hygiene habits is a key line of defense against the flu.”

    Here are a few ways to help keep the flu at bay:

    • Avoid close contact with those who are sick or other people if you are sick.
    • If you have flu-like symptoms, stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever has disappeared.
    • Use a tissue to cover your nose and mouth when sneezing and coughing. Dispose of the tissue immediately after use.
    • Regularly wash your hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub.
    • Try not to touch your eyes, nose, or mouth without first washing your hands to ensure they are germ-free.
    • Disinfect surfaces that people come into contact with at work, school, or home.

    “I can’t stress enough the importance of getting an annual flu shot, especially individuals who are at a greater risk of experiencing complications from flu. This includes young children, pregnant women, adults over the age of 65, and those with chronic medical conditions,” Dr. Cheikh adds. “That said, there is no foolproof strategy for dodging the flu completely. Good health and hygiene habits can go a long way in terms of reducing your risk of infection.”

    The Good Health Center at MedStar Good Samaritan Hospital offers seasonal flu vaccines for $20 as well as pneumonia vaccines for $25, and both vaccines are free for those with valid Medicare Part B cards. To learn more about its services, visit this page or call 410-248-8322.

    This article appeared in the fall 2018 issue of Destination: Good HealthRead more articles from this issue.

    Get Your Flu Vaccine Today

    The Good Health Center at MedStar Good Samaritan Hospital offers seasonal flu vaccines for $20 as well as pneumonia vaccines for $25, and both vaccines are free for those with valid Medicare Part B cards. To learn more about its services, visit this page or call 410-248-8322.

  • October 02, 2018

    By MedStar Health

    Early Detection Key for Both Women and Men

    Every October, during Breast Cancer Awareness Month, people all across the nation join together to raise awareness about breast cancer and the importance of breast cancer screenings. The most common cancer among women in the United States, besides skin cancer, it impacts hundreds of thousands of individuals, as well as their families and friends, each year.

    But, what many people don’t know is that men can get breast cancer, too.

    “Even though men don’t have breasts like women, they do have a small amount of breast tissue,” says Maen Farha, MD, medical director of the new Breast Center at MedStar Good Samaritan Hospital. “The breasts of an adult man are similar to the breasts of a girl before puberty. In girls, this tissue grows and develops … in boys, it doesn’t. Because it is still breast tissue, breast cancer can develop.”

    Breast cancer in men is a rare disease. Less than one percent of all breast cancers occur in men. In 2018, about 2,550 men are expected to be diagnosed. For men, the lifetime risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer is about one in 1,000.

    “Men get most of the same types of breast cancers that women do. The challenge in treating breast cancer in men is that it is often diagnosed later than it is in women,” Dr. Farha notes. “This is because many men ignore signs of a potential problem and are less likely to be suspicious of anything that seems odd.”

    Michael Griffin, a 55-year-old breast cancer survivor, is fortunate that his cancer was diagnosed early. “I found a very small lump around my nipple and my wife, Sharon, who is a nurse, urged me to have it checked. I had my primary care physician look at it and the next thing you know I was scheduled for a mammogram.” After the mammogram, a biopsy revealed he had stage I breast cancer.

    Griffin had previously worked as a surgical technician at MedStar Union Memorial Hospital where he had met Dr. Farha. He made an appointment with him and the next thing he remembers is discussing his treatment options with a multidisciplinary team of specialists.

    “This approach gives patients access to their care team in one session rather than having them go from one office to another,” Dr. Farha explains. “Our team specializes in developing personalized plans tailored to each patient’s specific situation. Not only do they understand the medical intricacies of effective treatment, they understand how traumatizing a cancer diagnosis like this can be— especially for a man.”

    Griffin and his wife consider themselves blessed that his breast cancer was caught early, when it was more treatable.

    “It really was a scary time,” Griffin says. “I couldn’t have gotten through it without my wife, the rest of my family, and my faith. I am truly blessed.”

    The same treatments that are used in treating breast cancer in women are also used to treat it in men. Griffin had a mastectomy along with a lymph node biopsy to see if the cancer had spread, followed by 10 months of chemotherapy. He now takes Tamoxifen daily to reduce the risk of the cancer coming back, sees his doctors every six months, and has an annual screening mammogram of his remaining breast.

    Griffin’s maternal grandmother had breast cancer, so he decided to undergo genetic testing to see if he had inherited any genetic mutations that might have contributed to the development of the disease. The tests were negative. “It gave me peace of mind. I have two daughters and three sons and wanted to know if any mutations could have been passed on to them,” Griffin says.

    Dr. Farha notes that most breast cancers in men happen between the ages of 60 and 70. Other factors that raise the risk for male breast cancer include:

    • Breast cancer in a close female relative
    • History of radiation exposure of the chest
    • Enlargement of breasts from drug or hormone treatments, or even some infections and poisons
    • Taking estrogen
    • Severe liver disease
    • Diseases of the testicles

    “There is no way to know who will develop breast cancer and who will not. Having a risk factor, or even several, does not mean that you will definitely develop breast cancer. But knowing what your risks are can help you, your family, and your doctor make choices to help lower your risk,” explains Dr. Farha.

    Since breast cancer in men is so rare, regular screening mammograms are not normally recommended for men like they are for women. “That’s why it is important for men to get anything that seems unusual checked out as soon as possible,” says Dr. Farha. “If you think there’s something wrong with you, follow up. The best way to reduce the number of deaths caused by breast cancer in both men and women is early detection and prompt treatment.”

    This article appeared in the fall 2018 issue of Destination: Good HealthRead more articles from this issue.



    Learn More

    The public is invited to tour the new Breast Center at MedStar Good Samaritan Hospital and meet our breast health experts on Wednesday, Oct. 24 from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. Registration is required as space is limited. Visit to sign up.


    Mammograms, along with clinical breast exams and general breast awareness, are vital for the early detection and successful treatment of breast cancer. Following are screening guidelines from the American Cancer Society:

    Women ages 40 and older:

    • Yearly mammogram
    • Yearly clinical breast exam
    • Monthly breast self-exam

    Women ages 20 to 39:

    • Clinical breast exam every three years
    • Monthly breast self-exam

    Some women, because of their family history, a genetic tendency, or certain other risk factors, should be screened earlier, more often or with additional tests. If you think you may fall into this category, talk with your healthcare provider for recommendations.